The Patagonia Women’s Spring River Waders lead the pack with their low-bulk, female-flattering fit. They also offer a feature set that caters to hard-core anglers who fish year-round.
With best-in-class booties and a streamlined fit, the Spring River Waders offer serious anglers a no-compromises option that’s durable, breathable, and flattering to boot.
When Patagonia debuted the Women’s Spring River Waders in 2014, it raised the bar on fit: Meticulously tailored legs and articulated knees reduced fabric bulk and created a very streamlined, flattering silhouette. Even now, as more companies are moving to a trimmer, body-hugging cut for women’s waders, the Spring River is still among the best-looking option on the market.
One aspect of fit that particularly impressed our testers is the booties. The original version used a 3mm neoprene backed with wool; now, they’re made of 4mm neoprene and no wool. But they fit just as well: Each foot is ergonomically designed left and right foot specific. These booties are also trimmer and better-fitting than most. There’s no excess fabric to get bunched up in wading boots. Instead, testers enjoyed a smooth fit that nested comfortably in their boots and permitted a more agile feel when hiking and wading.
The high-cut bib extends right into the armpit for full protection in deep water.
The four-layer construction uses Patagonia’s proprietary H2No waterproof/breathable membrane and a DWR-treated polyester face fabric. The combination strikes a comfortable balance between durability and breathability: Although strenuous hikes did create clammy conditions in these waders, their ability to move moisture kept pace with most activities (especially in cooler temperatures). Testers also reported that taking them off after a session of fishing never felt like relief: They felt dry enough that it didn’t much matter whether they took them off at the river, or after they got home.
Like other top performers in this test, the Women’s Spring River Waders use four-layer construction—except that instead of employing nylon fabrics, it uses polyester, which traditionally offers less abrasion resistance. However, the polyester that Patagonia uses is very densely woven, and over two full years of testing, we experienced no malfunctions.
The leg seams are also located away from the inner legs, to protect them from abrasion while walking.
The Y-shaped suspenders offer two attractive features. Unclipping the bib from the two front straps (which remain in place on your shoulders) lets you push it down to waist-height. That convertability is most welcome on hot days and in shallow water that doesn’t require shoulder-high protection.
What’s more, unbuckling the bib from the strap in the back lets anglers drop the waders for backwoods bio-breaks. But doing so requires the wearer to reach around to the center of their back to unlatch the buckle. Our tester found that maneuver to be tricky and impractical.
There’s an exterior zippered pocket on the chest, along with a handwarmer lined with microfleece that felt more wicking than warming: Testers wished for higher-pile insulation. There’s also a large waterproof internal pouch that holds a wallet and phone. Handy as this is, one tester wished it were removable, because it inhibits breathability across a large portion of the chest.
The Spring River’s above-average breathability and easy conversion from chest to waist-height waders makes them ideal for warm summer days. But the durable, four-layer construction and the bib’s protective cut also lends it to harsher conditions. If (like most anglers) you don’t have the luxury of owning a quiver of waders, this offers an excellent do-it-all option.
Mountain-dweller Kelly Bastone became a writer so she could stop asking the boss for permission to take a powder morning, enjoy extra-long lunch breaks to fish or mountain bike, and clock out early when the hatch is on.